B.C. health authority quietly changes website on airborne COVID-19 transmission
VANCOUVER -- Less than 24 hours after CTV News raised questions around British Columbia's outdated information on how COVID-19 spreads, one of the province's largest health authorities has quietly made changes to its website.
The scientific and medical communities have been debating how big a role airborne spread is in contracting the disease, with a predominant consensus reached months ago. In the past week alone, three influential medical journals have carried articles to that effect and the Public Health Agency of Canada joined with the U.S. CDC and World Health Organization in updating their websites earlier this month.
But the BCCDC and Vancouver Coastal Health have stuck to droplet-oriented messaging, with VCH going so far as to write "there is no reported evidence of airborne transmission.”
As of Thursday morning, that line has quietly been removed, along with another one reading, "Currently, health experts believe that coronavirus cannot be transmitted through airborne transmission."
The B.C. Centre of Disease Control's website remains unchanged, despite overwhelming evidence from the scientific community and the urging of local and national experts to do so.
Fraser Health, while not denying airborne transmission as Vancouver Coastal Health had, is focusing only on close-range droplet infections, citing the BCCDC.
"COVID-19 is spread by liquid droplets when a person coughs, sneezes, sings, or sometimes, when a person talks," reads its website. "If you are in close contact with an infected person, the virus can enter the body if droplets get into the eyes, nose or throat."
CTV News asked provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry whether public messaging around airborne transmission would be updated and received a wide-ranging but vague response.
She said B.C. health officials have "always said that smaller particles can transmit this virus," particularly indoors, but did not say whether the language on the BCCDC website would be updated to address airborne transmission.
Last year, Henry downplayed a letter signed by more than 200 scientists raising the importance of airborne transmission as "controversial."
When questioned about whether the government would start promoting the use of N95 respirator masks (the most protective covering, seen as the gold standard and used by medical professionals only during high-risk procedures), in high-risk settings where ventilation and other mitigating factors are not possible, Henry didn't respond directly.
"Nobody is recommending that people in the public wear respirators, when they're outdoors," she said. "Respirators are an important piece of personal protective equipment that's most relevant in hospital settings."
Click here to read the original story that prompted the change in messaging: "'It's hard to say you were wrong': B.C. promotes outdated information on airborne COVID-19 spread."